Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ask Linda #1536-Touch grass in water hazard with practice swing

Hi Linda,
For as long as I have been playing golf I have understood that you may not touch the ground in a water hazard (in fact any hazard), and when I later became a bit more familiar with the rules of golf, I found Rule 13-4: “A player must not touch the ground in the hazard, or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club.”

So I was surprised when someone recently pointed out that they believed it is OK to touch the grass in a water hazard, e.g., with a practice swing, citing the Note that follows Exception 3 to Rule 13-4: “At any time…the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction…or any grass, bush or tree or other growing thing.”

That paragraph seems to contradict Rule 13-4b, or am I missing something?

Best regards as always,
Lou from West Wickham, England

Dear Lou,

It’s not a contradiction, Lou. There’s a difference between touching the ground and touching something above the ground that is growing out of the ground. There is no penalty if you take a practice swing in a hazard and your club grazes the top of the grass (or strikes a bush, a tree, or anything else that’s growing in the hazard); your club has not touched the ground. However (and you know there always has to be a “however”), if you happen to flatten the grass near your ball with your practice swing, thereby improving the area of your intended swing, you cannot avoid a two-stroke penalty [Decision 13-4/4]. If a player improves his lie, stance, or area of intended swing in the hazard with his practice swing, or if he tests the condition of the hazard, he has breached Rule 13-2.

Your safest bet is to take your practice swing outside the hazard. But if you like to take a practice swing just prior to hitting your ball, choke down on your club a bit, stand away from your ball, and take a swing that lightly brushes the top of the grass. Your friend knows his stuff.

Copyright © 2017 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.